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March 4, 2013 @ 11:10 pm
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Bucs Could Add DL Depth: Five Potential Targets In Free Agency

Written by Mark
Bucs Could Add DL Depth: Five Potential Targets In Free Agency
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Mark Cook


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With free agency just one week away the Tampa Bay front office and coaching staff are busy scouting potential free agents to target on March 12 to help improve the Buccaneers. In this feature, PewterReport.com lists five defensive linemen who are unrestricted free agents that the Buccaneers may consider signing.
While the recent revelation that the Buccaneers are prepared to replace free agent Michael Bennett with Da’Quan Bowers may be a case of Bucs general manager Mark Dominik bluffing to agent Drew Rosenhaus, Tampa Bay must still add some talent to the defensive line.

Along with Bennett, Roy Miller is also slated to be a free agent and so far there have been no reports of negotiations with Miller. Bennett and Miller combined to help Tampa Bay lead the NFL in rush defense and the loss of either or both would certainly make it difficult to defend their No.1 run defense ranking in 2013.

Daniel T’eo- Nesheim is a restricted free agent, but it is thought that Tampa Bay is very interested in keeping Nesheim in the fold, and most likely will tender an offer to the former Washington Huskie star.

Besides Bennett and Miller, the Buccaneers currently have Bowers, Gerald McCoy, Gary Gibson, Adrian Clayborn, Richard Clebert, Corey Irvin, Lavarius Levingston, Matthey Masifilo, Ernest Owusu, and Markus White on their roster.

This year the NFL is allowing a three-day window prior to the March 12 star time, allowing free agents to enter into discussions with prospective teams. The change is most likely a way for teams to avoid being hit with tampering allegations, as prior to this season NFL teams were not allowed to speak to players or agents of the players who were set to become free agents.

Monday was the deadline for teams to designate one player as their franchise player. The franchise tag guarantees the selected player a one-year contract that equals the average of the top-10 players at their position.

Three of the top free agents, Chicago’s Henry Melton, the Bengals’ Michael Johnson and the Cowboys’ Anthony Spencer all received the franchise-tag designation. The Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik recently stated publicly that Tampa Bay will not use the franchise tag this season, and was true to his word. Tagging Bennett would have cost the Bucs $11,175,000 in 2013.

Paul Kruger
Kruger was a crucial part of the Ravens’ success in 2012, capping off with a Super Bowl victory last month against the 49ers. Kruger played both as a defensive end and an edge-rushing linebacker, but was a defensive end during his college career. Does he want to convert back to primarily a defensive end or will he prefer to go play for another 3-4 defense as a standup rush linebacker? That will be the biggest question when free agency opens next Tuesday. Kruger was a second-round draft pick by the Ravens in the 2009 draft and after an outstanding second half of the 2012 season, many wondered if the Ravens would use the franchise tag on the former Utah star, which they chose not to and are bracing for the possibility of losing him in free agency. Kruger doesn't have elite pass rushing moves in his repertoire, but has an incredible motor and comes up huge in big games, including two sacks in the Super Bowl that forced the 49ers to kick field goals.

Osi Umenyiora
Umenyiora is on the wrong side of 30 (31) but certainly could bring a leadership role inside the Bucs locker room in addition to possibly becoming a situational pass rusher. With 75 career sacks, Umenyiora has a proven track record at getting to the quarterback. His production dipped in 2012 with just 6 sacks in 16 games, but had he played for Tampa Bay with those numbers he would have been second on the team behind Bennett. Umenyiora has expressed an interest to return to New York but with the lack of cap space that appears unlikely. Again, two Super Bowl rings would get the attention of the young Bucs defensive linemen in the meeting rooms, if in fact Umenyiora were to choose to be a leader. The motivation to prove the Giants wrong could bode well for whatever team gives the former Giant a shot in 2013.

Cliff Avril
There is no question that Avril is in his prime and is a dynamic pass rusher, but the Lions free agent is hoping for huge money on the free agent market. Avril recently told Sirius/XM NFL Radio that he didn’t regret turning down the Lions offer of three-years, $30 million before the start of the 2012 season. Avril signed a one-year, $10.6 million deal as the team’s franchise player. Since being selected in the 2008 draft, Avril has collected 39.5 sacks, including 9.5 in 2012, while also adding 35 tackles. Again, Avril is one of the better pass rushers in the league but also mentioned Mario Williams money which will price him out of most team’s future if he sticks to those demands.

Dwight Freeney
Freeney, like Umenyiora, most like has seen his better days, and after an illustrious career in Indy, Freeney will be wearing new colors in 2013. While it is the rude, tough business of the NFL, players playing their entire careers for the same team is becoming more and more of a rarity. The Colts, which had Freeney playing as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme under new head coach Chuck Pagano, broke the news to Freeney recently that they aren’t interested in bringing their all-time sack leader back. While Indianapolis may not want Freeney there will be several suitors, with rumors abounding that the Patriots and Broncos are interested in having Freeney aboard as a situational third-down pass rusher. Freeney was banged up to a degree in 2012 and not comfortable in his role and he finished with a career-low in sacks with just five QB takedowns.

John Abraham
Abraham is also well past his prime but recently stated he thinks he has a couple years left in the tank. Obviously the Falcons disagreed, and Abraham signing with Tampa Bay would certainly help ease the sting of being cut. Abraham will be 35 when the 2013 season kicks off and most likely wont find a tremendous market in free agency but with 122 career sacks, Abraham could potentially be a leader and mentor to the younger members of the defensive line. Even at age 34 in Atlanta last season Abraham managed 10 sacks and an amazing six forced fumbles.

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 10:45

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  • avatar

    I specifically don't want Osi (attitude) or either Avril or Kruger (high cost). We have two first round and one second round draft picks in this line already. It would be dumb to go dumping a ton of FA money into it as well. People forget that DE and DT are tough positions to which to acclimate in the NFL for most. Bowers and Clay are both ONLY 2 years into their careers - and both have missed some time due to injury, so really, even less than that. We don't need to go splurging on guys like Avril and Kruger who will come with very, very large price tags. The right prescription here is patience with the talent we have and maybe an older, situational rusher to teach them some things and add some sacks while he's at it. It is for this same reason that drafting a DE with a premium pick, unless the team feels that a true can't miss talent falls to #13, would be a bad move come April. We've already drafted 2 guys who, I believe, there is ample reason to believe will be excellent pass rushers in the very, very near future. Let's spend big money or high picks addressing those positions that have gone by the wayside for too long already, like CB, FS, slot WR and maybe RT.
  • avatar

    The most intriguing name on this list is Dwight Freeney. He couldn't play OLB in Indy's 3-4 this year, which drove his sack numbers down and may very well result in him costing less. I think he can still rush the passer very effectively as a 4-3 DE. That said, I really don't think that FA DEs are something we should be spending money on unless they come at a truly great value. Whoever said earlier (I think it was Horse) that Michael Bennett doesn't put enough pressure on the passer is crazy. He registered something like the 5th or 6th highest combo of sacks and pressures of all DEs in the NFL last season. I'm still 50/50 on whether or not we should consider it crucial to keep him, but you can't call legitimately his pass-rushing numbers from last season into question.
  • avatar

    I don't think Baltimore will let Kruger go. I believe Bennet has improved every year and still has more upside. Grab his Brother as a FA TE, and tender him a respectible offer and he'll stay here and play with his brother. I don't think Bowers will do any jail time and will improve as well. With Clayborn back and resign Te'o and we should be just fine at DE without any real expensive free agents. It would be nice to have a free agent Defensive Lineman who can play the run but also knife through and be able to run down the QB and disrupt. That will really disrupt the other teams because the QB will be scared to step up when the DEs come crashing in from both sides. Use your first and second round picks to get the best DBs available. I would like to see the Bucs grab a shutdown corner in free agency. We have the cap room to entice Reavis here and the Jets don't have the money to keep him. Pick up a strong side LB in the draft in the third round unless the coaches believe Goode can start there this year.
  • avatar

    Now that there are rumblings in Denver about Elvis Dummervil, that would be a great piece to pick up maybe via trade, compared to these other "clowns". He is bona fide.
  • avatar

    I agree with other fans John Abraham would be a teacher and a leader in the bucs locker room. With all the Defensive linemen available in this year draft. Take a chance Go after John Abraham, and the Pro Football Guide have Tampa selects DE Sam Montgomery from LSU. I say go Bucs-Lets do it right.
  • avatar

    John Abraham would be a great pickup, the man teaches younger lineman how to rush the passer and play the DE position, so he can help us in more than one way, I think the Bucs can afford to take him and perhaps even one of the others featured. He has awesome strength and plays very level with superb balance, EVEN at 35! Sign him and watch how one man can change the dynamics of our D-Line!
  • avatar

    Horse: I'll agree with you that our pass rush didn't produce the desired number of sacks; but to infer that the secondary was a victim of it when we're lining up street free agents at CB is a stretch.
  • avatar

    Scubog, I am not saying that the CB's were good, but they really weren't horrible either. Do some of them need to be replaced; absolutely. If Wright would take a big pay cut, I would keep him. I believe Johnson played decent. Of course we need two more CB's, but we will still go no where without a pass rush which leads to drafting another DE and DT and CB's in the first three rounds. That requires more draft picks than what we have now. I am not for attaining Bennett nor Miller. Neither one put enough pressure in getting to the QB. The run stopping thing is minor compared to our poor pass rush performance since most yardage is from collected on passing and not running. First we must fix the DL. This season I am hoping for an 9-7 season; I believe by 2014 we will make the playoffs easily if we draft well this year and next. I have fallen off the train for the available Free Agents this year and I would not go for reaches for players that have already peaked and are on the way down.
  • avatar

    I get the Kruger support, but honestly it seems the dlinemen including Bennett and miller have really bonded and grew up together and for chemistry purposes and all of the talk about becoming a team, I think we'd be better served just keeping them intact. Besides, as several of us have mentioned, Dom has always bragged about never losing a player they wanted to keep. I think most of us can agree that if we were to go outside, spend on some freakin DBs!
  • avatar

    Thanks Mark. I think I would stick to the draft and who we have under contract as of now, and not overpay for players that won't help us much in 2014 when we become a consistent winning team. In my opinion, lets not forget that our pass rushed sucked which caused our defensive backs to look horrible; not the other way around. Nope same ole same ole for me? Trade out of the first round and pick up some more draft picks for this draft and the 2014 draft.
  • avatar

    Living in the Baltimore area, I have witness first hand Paul Kruger every Sunday. He is a diamond in the rough. For years, Baltimore fans were crying out why the Ravens weren't playing Kruger. Well, he got a lot of playing time in 2011 and was a starter in 2012, and he was more than Ravens fans had hoped for. I have a feeling he could become a Pro Bowler for the Bucs. If I could have any of these guys, it would be (in order): 1. Paul Kruger 2. Cliff Avril 3. John Abraham 4. Osi Umenyiora 5. Dwight Freeney
  • avatar

    For those saying Abraham is "done" the same year he's recording 10 sacks and 6 forced fumbles, I must not understand the meaning of the word. Does that mean that every DE on the Bucs roster is "overdone" or "underdone"?
  • avatar

    They need to spend $ on someone good. However, it looks like they may get a cheap run guy (or use someone they've got already) and a cheap (say old) situational guy and wallah! they don't have to pay Bennett. Add a DE as a draft pick development project and everything is rosy..............
  • avatar

    They have to resign Bennett or the Dline will be just as bad as it was in 2011...we dont know if Bowers will play this year and if he does will he be suspended or will her get hurt again? Clayborn is the only solid DE on the team if Bennett leaves and by solid i mean he has played a whole season with decent production even though he was out last year. Cant afford to lose Bennett for many reasons even if they sign Kruger or Avril or another FA. Im glad they didnt tag Bennett but im a little surprised Miller was not tagged. If everything works out and they resign Bennett and Bowers gets no jail time then I dont see a reason to sign a FA DE when the draft class is full of great talent on the Dline. Too many other needs to let some one like Bennett walk away.
  • avatar

    When I surveyed the list of free agents the guy I liked the most for the Bucs was Kruger. I try not to get all caught up in all this is he a 3-4 guy or a DE in a 4-3 terminology when it comes to a guy like Kruger. Kruger is just an old school, hard nosed football player. Someone who would be a God send for the Bucs both on the field and in the locker room. Speaking of the locker room, Mark I couldn't disagree with you more when it comes to Umenyiora. He has been a royal pain in the butt for the Giants his whole career. A one dimensional player who only cares about sacks and $'s, and not in that order. I wouldn't want him anywhere near our young D-lineman. I believe Freeney still has a productive season left in his gun but to be fair to him, he should go to a now team like NE, Denver or Balt ect. I wouldn't give you a nickel for the rest of your list. I totally agree with the way our GM is handling the Bennett and Miller situations.
  • avatar

    Oh God, Rosenhaus is Bennett's agent. I hope he doesn't screw up his career like he screwed up others, including Eric Rhett.
  • avatar

    Osi has been overlooked by many fans. I'm sure he's going to be a hot commodity in about a week though. John Abraham as a situational DE would be nice. I'd be happy with any of those 5 guys IMO
  • avatar

    i have a feeling abraham and freeny are done. Avril seems like a guy who only plays when he wants. Id like kruger if the price tag isn't too high.
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